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What are we focused on? How can we move forward in the hardest times?

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As We Move Forward: Character

It has been said that a way to understand our character is to think about what we would do if we knew no one would ever find out. A person of good character would be someone who does the right thing simply because it is the right thing, and for any personal motive.

Alone How we resolve the things that confront us in our lives is directly related on our response in these situations. Since our responses are determined by our character, it really matters what our character is. It has been observed that certain character traits seem to be identified with positive outcomes while others seem to be present when the outcome is negative. While there is not a hard and fast connection between character traits and outcomes, the tendencies are real. It cannot be said good people are always more successful than bad people, although the trends do exist.

There are various lists of what constitutes good character. The common ingredient in these lists seems to be putting the needs of others ahead of our own. It can be said that a person of good character is selfless while someone of poor character could be call selfish or at least self-centered.

Character develops. A tiny baby is totally self-centered, concerned only with getting its own needs met. While that is perfectly normal and acceptable in a baby, a self-centered adult is very difficult to be around. Sharing is a difficult thing for most children to learn. Sharing is crucial to establishing and maintaining meaningful relationships. The same can be said of character traits like honesty and integrity, dependability.

It is open to discussion whether and to what extent we can determine and develop character traits in ourselves and others. Parents and teachers have done many things in the of instilling character in young people. The whole self-improvement culture has been centered around identifying and developing positive character traits and eliminating negative ones from our lives.

How would you describe your character? What are your positive character traits? Do you have negative character traits? How would other people describe your character? What things do you do when you know no one is watching? Do you do the right thing just because it is the right thing?

CharacterMany people believe character can be developed and that we can train ourselves to be stronger in demonstrating certain behavior characteristics. Benjamin Franklin had a  program in which he identified character traits that he wanted to improve in his own life and a plan for focusing on each of these for a week at a time.

As we move forward, it is important to come to terms with our own character. It might be helpful to think of people we know who are examples either of character we admire or want to avoid. It might be valuable to look at our own character in terms of how others respond to us. You may even have a few trusted people with whom you can discuss your character. Either way, self-understanding is an important starting point.

A goal might be to identify one character trait you would like to develop or build. A second step might be to identify a character trait that seems to be holding you back in some way. See if there is a way you can minimize or even eliminate this. Have fun with becoming more the person you know you are meant to be.

David C. Bloom,
CEO of IHS Services, Inc.

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis. Click here to read the other As We Move Forward entries.

As We Move Forward: Belonging

BelongingIt is essential to every person to have a sense of belonging. The model of the family forms the ideal environment for a person to find love, protection, nurture, education and so much more. For the rest of our lives, we seek ways to belong. The things we do to belong say a lot about who we are and what is really important to us.

Where do you find your sense of belonging? Many people in our complex culture find it increasingly difficult to have the experience of belonging anywhere. A big part of belonging includes shared values.

A big part of belonging is being able to trust others in a relationship where we belong to accept us for who we are. I have maintained for many years that it is more important for someone to respect me than to like me. That is primarily because liking some is basically a feeling based response over which we have little if any control. Respect is something which can be freely offered to another person. I have said many times that when there is no longer mutual respect between me and someone with whom I have a relationship, there needs to be serious discussion about the nature of the relationship.

FriendsHaving a relationship with a sense of belonging includes respect but goes beyond that. The essence of a relationship that brings with it the sense of belonging keeps coming back to essentials like core values and beliefs. I feel safe around people with whom I share core values, like honesty and integrity. I can disagree with people in this type of relationship as long as our mutually held values and beliefs are not violated.

This actually sounds more complicated than it really is. Do you have, or have you ever had, a best friend? What makes this relationship so special? Perhaps you have known this person for a major portion of your life. Many people share that they have others they see more often and interact with more frequently than their best friends. It follows from this that is the quality of the relationship more than the quantity of time spent together that makes this special friendship a place where we feel that sense of belonging.

We experience degrees of bonding in various relationships. Fans of athletic teams can experience a sense of belonging as they cheer for victory or agonize over defeat. The bond may or may not go deeper than the excitement of rooting for the same outcome. Hopefully the place you work gives you a sense of belonging. Much of that will depend on how much the values and culture are shared with you and how closely these mirror your own.

CrowdThe same can be said of a country. Our sense of belonging to our country is directly related to  how we believe these values to be a reflection of our own. When that does not occur or is disrupted, we may experience a sense of isolation and frustration. In a country as diverse as ours, it can sometimes be difficult to experience a sense of belonging. This is even more difficult in a time like this when modern communication sources give us so much information it can at times come across as information overload.

As we move forward, let us remember that our sense of belonging does not require us to agree on everything. We need to be constantly aware of our core values and beliefs so we can gauge all our relationships in terms of how closely they line up with those from whom we seek a sense of belonging. My hope is that each of us will find at least one place, and hopefully, several, where we can not only feel a sense of belonging, but offer that to others in our lives.

David C. Bloom,
CEO of IHS Services, Inc.

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis. Click here to read the other As We Move Forward entries.

As We Move Forward: Achieving Balance

Balance

One of the most important things we seek in our lives is a balance. There seems to be some confusion about just what that means. An industrial balance is a device with a tray on either side of a pivot point. Whatever substance you want to know the weight for is placed in one of the trays. Weights placed on the other plate. These weights are labeled. They get added until both sides get suspended at the same level on either side of the pivot point. The equality is the balance.

Balance in our lives is about establishing equilibrium between opposing forces in our lives. These can include things like family, work, leisure activities. The common element is that these forces are all part of our relationships. Each of these attempts to achieve balance affects not just our lives but the lives of others. Among the outside forces affecting balance in our lives are things like health, money, loss and many other factors over which we have little or no  control.

Pressure

Pressure

Each of us has a different tolerance for the forces that we can work with and still maintain a balance in our lives. Some people seem to thrive on change. Others become very uncomfortable if anything in their lives is out of line. Extremes in behavior can indicate that a person’s life may be out of balance. If you or someone you know is almost always happy and contented and suddenly become angry or depressed much of the time, this might indicate something may be causing a change in balance. Like the ripples that occur when a rock gets dropped in water, this condition of being out of balance might not be observable in your life, but in the effects, you seem to be having on others.

How do you think the balance in your life is right now? How do you feel about yourself and your actions? If you sense a lack of balance in an area of your life, can you think of when you became aware of it? What was going on in your life and your relationships when you sensed that something was not balanced? How much control do you have over these things?

Do you think there is a change in the way people in your life are responding to you? What do you think those changes mean? Being out of balance can be a positive thing. Changing things in our lives like a job, a positive relationship change like marriage or moving to a new place can all be examples of being off balance during a time of adjustment to something new and exciting.

Sometimes it helps to talk with people we respect and trust about issues of balance in our lives. While each of us must determine how much our lives are balanced, because we live in relationships with others, the input of a few trusted friends and relatives can be helpful.

BalanceMost of us would agree we seem to live in a world so complicated that achieving balance in our lives sometimes appears to be overwhelming. As we move forward, our ability to recognize the factors that affect the balance in our lives and the lives of those around us becomes a vital skill to live our lives to their full capacity for fulfillment, satisfaction, and happiness. The best to each of you as you seek to have and maintain a balanced life.

David C. Bloom,
CEO of IHS Services, Inc.

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis. Click here to read the other As We Move Forward entries.

As We Move Forward: Dealing With Setbacks

ObstacleI don’t know many people who experience life without setbacks. I do remember a conversation many years ago with someone who expressed concern that her family had not suffered any real hardships. She was afraid of what she would do if anything terrible happened to them. I have reflected on this conversation many times over the years as I have watched people experiencing troubling situations. After going through some difficult times, I can understand her apprehension. The lessons we learn and the maturity we develop while working through difficulties helps us develop strategies and resources for dealing with future setbacks.

Overcoming fear and anxiety are necessary skills in dealing with setbacks. I am sometimes surprised at the things I am no longer afraid of because I have already faced them. Knowing what doesn’t scare you can go a long way toward overcoming setbacks.

The list of things we are not afraid of is different for each of us, and it can and does change over the course of time. It is never easy to deal with loss. Successfully dealing with loss gives us confidence and knowledge to allow us to face future losses without the same fear as when it is an entirely unknown experience. Future losses will in all likelihood still cause us pain and difficulty, but facing these setbacks with less fear will definitely be helpful.

Comfort ZoneFacing challenges, especially with most or all of the fear removed, can make us open to new  possibilities. Being forced out of our comfort zone can lead us in directions we might never have considered without being faced with the setback. Far too many people come to a seemingly insurmountable obstacle and just stop there. They may live out the rest of their lives with that setback being the thing that defines and dominates their life.

What setbacks have you experienced in your life? Have they been due to circumstances you could not control? Have you experienced significant loss? Have you made decisions that led to a setback? Have you learned things that would make it easier to move forward through the setback[s] you might be currently facing?

As we move forward, how can more knowledge and less fear make you more successful in working through and current and future setbacks? May that knowledge be helpful yo you both now and in the future.

David C. Bloom,
CEO of IHS Services, Inc.

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis. Click here to read the other As We Move Forward entries.

As We Move Forward: Always Be Sure You’re Right

Horse

Horse

Many years ago Walt Disney produced a television series, “The Legend of Davey Crockett.” The show was based on the Tennessee-born woodsman who became a hero, a political figure and who ended up fighting and dying at the Battle of the Alamo. One of the lines everyone who watched the show will remember Fess Parker, the actor who portrayed Davey Crockett saying in every episode was, “Be always sure you’re right, and then go ahead.”

On the surface, that may sound like a simple thing. I think in our society, many people tend to respond in anger and haste, rather than to take time to listen, to assess every point of view and every alternative before taking action. I recently spent time in a rapidly growing city where people drive fast, drive aggressively and are either very angry or love showing off the fact that their cars all have horns and that they can activate them at a moment’s notice.

GPS

I admit to being a fairly cautious driver who in an unfamiliar situation tends to rely on either the guidance of a human navigator or the voice of my iPhone’s GPS. These are situations where being sure you are right before going ahead can create tension with others who have apparently already determined that they are right and are going ahead

Instantaneous access to more information than we can possibly absorb and process can lead to our belief that we have been deliberate in making sure we are right before taking action. The fact is we cannot sustain the results of our actions unless we make sure we have taken this process seriously.

We have all acted impulsively and have come to regret our actions. How much better would it be if the first step in every decision was to ask the question, “Am I sure I’m doing the right thing?” Doing the right thing does not always insure that things turn out the way you want them to. Davey Crockett and a number of other patriotic Americans decided the battle at the Alamo was the right thing to do, even though it meant the sacrifice of their lives. There are some things that are worth whatever is required of us. I hope each of you has found at least one of those things.

DecisionThe process of always being right before going ahead can, at times, be painful. It may put you in opposition to people close to you. Are you facing a decision where taking the time to be sure you’re right before you go ahead would help you commit to the course of action the decision calls for?

Good for you. Those are the decisions that lead to lasting results. Even if no one makes a TV show of your life, decisions made this way will make a difference. “Be always sure you’re right, and then go ahead.” Let’s remember this as we move forward.

David C. Bloom,
CEO of IHS Services, Inc.

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis. Click here to read the other As We Move Forward entries.

As We Move Forward: How’s Your Sense of Adventure?

Playful

Remember when you were little and anything could be an adventure? Did you and your friends build forts out of whatever old materials were around? What could you make out of cardboard boxes? We had a woods nearby, trees on a vacant lot and large brush piles on those lots. There was no end to the adventures we had. We were limited only by our imaginations.

What were you sure that you would be when you grew up? How close did you come? (Not even close is perfectly all right!!) Do you remember firsts like first days at school, first time trying out for a team, first day learning to play a musical instrument? Do you remember your first job? Can you remember what an exciting future full of possibilities these experiences opened up for you?

This list of experiences full of adventure can go on and on. How about graduation–when the whole world lay before you! For many of us there was the day we met the love of our life–what a sense of adventure and endless possibilities that presented us! Many equate the birth of children with a tremendous sense of hope and adventure. There are so many more. Take a minute to make a list of some more of the exciting adventure experiences in your life.

ListHow is your sense of adventure today? What are the things you are still excited about accomplishing? Are there places you still haven’t visited? Are there things you have always wanted to try but haven’t yet? Again, take a minute and make a list. Put down anything that excites you when you think about accomplishing it.

Our sense of adventure is what keeps us sharp and focused for the business of living life to its fullest. Never lose the desire to do new things, to experience things you have wanted to do for a long time and have not accomplished yet. Let me tell you a secret. It really doesn’t matter if there are some of things we never get to do. It is the desire and the anticipation that creates the sense of adventure in each of us.

ThoughtAfter working on your lists, make the  decision to do one of the things on your list of adventures. It doesn’t have to be something big and seemingly impossible. After you do this one thing, see how good it makes you feel. Then, with the sense of adventure still fresh in your mind, do something else.

Doing things that keep your sense of adventure fresh and alive is one of the most important things you can do to achieve maximum satisfaction in life. Treasure and nurture your sense of adventure. It can be one of your most precious gifts.

David C. Bloom,
CEO of IHS Services, Inc.

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis. Click here to read the other As We Move Forward entries.

As We Move Forward: Assessing Your Strengths

List

If you were asked, ”What are your strengths,” what would your response be? Many of us would have an easier time listing our weaknesses. Try it. Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. Label one side “My Strengths” and the other “My Weaknesses.” Spend a few minutes listing the things that come to mind under each category. I hope you are totally honest. No one needs to ever see this list but you. I have done this exercise a number of times in my life. I find, each time, that I can generate a long list of weaknesses. My list of strengths is always much shorter and more tenuous than definite. In fact, I find myself crossing out or dismissing a number of things from that list as things I wish were true about myself rather than things I actually accept as strengths. This may or may or may not be true for you. It is for many people I have asked to do this exercise over the years.

Why is this? What makes it easier to list things we see in ourselves as weaknesses than strengths? While the goal of this exercise is not to become egomaniacs, totally absorbed in ourselves, it can be the starting point for honestly looking at our strengths as the potential with which we can begin to make some of the things that can lead us to happiness and fulfillment in life.

FriendsOne good place to begin this search is to think of the people in your life who are or who have been supportive and encouraging to you. Hopefully you have or have had many such people in your life. Even if the number of people who have encouraged you is small, add the things they have said about you to your list of strengths.

Your list of strengths should also include the things you enjoy doing, and the things you do well. Nothing is too small or insignificant to be included on that list. Include things you would really like to do if you only had the knowledge or experience to do them. These are strengths because the desire to do them is a strong incentive to achieve the desired outcome from the activity.

You may include things you were forced to learn and do. Ask yourself if any of these things gave you the tools to develop a skill that brings you satisfaction. I know people who will tell you they are surprised that developing skill in something they did not at first think interested them led to something meaningful and rewarding in their lives. A common example of this is someone who was forced to endure seemingly endless of music lessons and practice only to discover how this skill later led to very meaningful experiences as they shared their musical talents with people in various settings.

New BeginningsAsk people in your life now what they think are your strengths. You may be surprised that something you have taken for granted about yourself is seen as a strength by someone else. Ultimately, the information you gather about your strengths can be your springboard to new and exciting things you have yet to discover in your life. As we move forward, enjoy the journey of identifying, assessing and developing your strengths. You do have many.

David C. Bloom,
CEO of IHS Services, Inc.

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis. Click here to read the other As We Move Forward entries.

As We Move Forward: Dealing with Stress

Stress

How do you handle stress? The answer says a lot about how you do in handling life. Sometimes it seems as if life is merely getting from one stress filled event to another. Perhaps that is because stress can be found in some of life’s highest moments as well as its lowest. Few if any of us can go through life without stress. In fact, it would not be a good thing if we were able to pull that off.

There is a story about a child who happened on a bird that was struggling to break out of its shell. Moved with compassion, the child carefully broke away the remaining pieces of the shell so the bird could be free of its seeming confinement. What the child would never know is that the misguided action condemned the bird to never be able to fly. It seems that the struggle to break out of its shell allows a bird to develop the skill of flying.

Think about what you have learned from some of the struggles in your life. I will be the first to admit I have learned more from the things in my life that did not go well than those that did. I have learned the most from experiences I would not willingly choose to repeat.

The same thing holds true for relationships. I have learned some very valuable lessons from interaction with people I find it difficult to relate to. These are some of the examples if sources of stress in our lives. There are others.

DivideOne of the challenges of dealing with stress is that often the things that cause stress in our lives are, or at least seem, to be out of our control. Feelings of helplessness and hopeless add to our sense of frustration in dealing with the stress in our lives in ways that make sense.

One really useful strategy in dealing with stress is separating the things we can do something about from those we can’t. Often the satisfaction of resolving something we can control gives us confidence and the sense of satisfaction to accept things that seem beyond our control. The important thing is to not let stress become so overwhelming that we lose sight of the things in our lives over which we have some control and in which we can make a difference.

One of the things I tell myself often is that life is a marathon, not a sprint. The character traits we develop over time give us the knowledge, maturity and judgment to make and carry out the decisions that will allow us to deal effectively with stress over the long run.

What are the biggest sources of stress in your life right now? Which ones do you just have to accept–for now because they are seemingly beyond your control? What can you do in your life to make that easier? Are there small areas of stress even within the larger areas of stress where you can make a difference? Can you develop a positive attitude to help make an impossible situation bearable–at least until you can find a way to make things better.

GrowthDo you have a long range plan to change something in your life that causes you major stress? If not, what would that plan look like? What are you learning from those situations that bring stress into your life? How can you grow as a person through these situations?

Stress is a part of each of our lives. What can you do to make your stress a valuable part of learning and growth? You might be surprised what you can accomplish.

David C. Bloom,
CEO of IHS Services, Inc.

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis. Click here to read the other As We Move Forward entries.

As We Move Forward: What Are Your Dreams?

DreamsEach of us has dreams. Dreams may be thought of as,”a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person’s mind during sleep.” It is entirely up to us whether we experience our dreams only in this way or whether we decide to make our dreams the basis for action. According to one of the best known dreamers of modern times, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them” – Walt Disney

My first trip to Disneyland took place shortly after Walt Disney’s death. As we rode the train, the recorded message encouraged us to look at the engine. The voice told us that sometimes Walt comes down and drives the train. Even knowing he was gone, I looked. Over my adult life, I have enjoyed some of the fruit of Walt Disney’s dreams. They are a testament to what can happen when we find the courage to act on our dreams.

HappinessI have been blessed in my life to see dreams fulfilled–mine and those of others. In fact, one of my dreams is helping people discover their dreams and develop a strategy for realizing them. Helping someone realize a dream is not the same as doing it for them. Sadly, that seldom if ever works. You also cannot compel someone to act on their dreams. You can only encourage them and show them how.

What are your dreams? I sometimes ask a person, “If time and money were not a factor, what would you be doing?” If you can envision your response to that question, you are both dreaming and on the road to seeing your dreams become reality. I believe the best dreams benefit not only you but others. They might benefit the people you love, and they might even be big enough to benefit people beyond your circle of influence.

Dreams require work, sacrifice and sometimes suffering to accomplish. Sometimes we have to wait for our dreams to become reality. Sometimes we have to modify our dreams. I am saddened when I meet someone who has given up on their dreams. What about you?

GreatnessWhat are the secret things you desire to see happen that would make you and others happier? What would you like people to remember you for? What would you like to do that would make the world a better place?

As we move forward, think of ways we can help you turn your dreams into realities. That is what our being in relationship is all about. Have the courage to pursue your dreams.

David C. Bloom,
CEO of IHS Services, Inc.

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis. Click here to read the other As We Move Forward entries.

As We Move Forward: Facing Our Fears

Fear What do you fear? There are many ways to describe fear. Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger—if we didn’t feel it, we couldn’t protect ourselves from legitimate threats. But often we fear situations that are far from life-or-death, and thus hang back for no good reason. Traumas or bad experiences can trigger a fear response within us that is hard to quell. Yet exposing ourselves to our personal demons is the best way to move past them.

Fear stops us in mid-action. Uncertainty about the possible outcome makes us unable to make decisions about how to proceed. Fear can strike anywhere, without warning. Since no two people have the exact same life experiences, everyone’s list of fears and responses to fear may be different.

Fear really is like other obstacles we encounter in life. The only way to deal with it begins with acknowledging and confronting it. Think of someone you know who has never gotten past something that happened in their life. Whatever they are doing, it is obvious what an invisible barrier their fear represents.

Terrorism depends on this response to fear. Any time our response to fear is indecision and immobility, the perpetrators of the fear win. We all know that. Unfortunately, that kind of fear is all too common in our world. Even if we cannot control some of the things that trigger fear, we can control our response to the fear.

StopFear can affect every area of our lives. Are you experiencing dissatisfaction in any area of your life? Are their uncertainties or even changes going on in your life environment that make you fearful about what is coming next? Do you sometimes feel out of control? That can be an indicator of fear. The good news is that the starting point for dealing with all of these is the same.

Recognize that something is going on. Examine the feelings you are having. Can you identify where these feelings might be rooted in something in your past? How much of the fears are based in reality?

SkyWhat can you do to change the circumstances that bring on the fear? Can anyone help you? Do you want the outcomes that changing will make enough to do what it will take to achieve them?

The answers to these questions might not always be yes, and that is OK. A well known prayer, attributed to Francis of Assisi, is known as the serenity prayer. “O God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” As we move forward, facing our fears can lead to positive outcomes. What fear will you face first? This can be the start of an exciting adventure. Let’s keep moving forward together.

David C. Bloom,
CEO of IHS Services, Inc.

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis. Click here to read the other As We Move Forward entries.